Greetings from United Kingdom
EHMCN Celebration Event
23rd August Creative Quarter, Morgan Arcade, Cardiff

Key Statistics

Although policy on migration is not devolved, the Welsh Government has responsibility to economic migrants living in Wales under its housing, health, education, social service functions and through its community cohesion agenda

Since 2005 the percentage of migrant workers in the Welsh labour force has doubled to 9.2%, around 82,600 employees. The main regions of origin are Asia and Oceania (2.8%), Western Europe (2.4%) and the A8 accession countries that joined the EU in 2004. The main countries of origin are Poland, India, Germany, Ireland, the Philippines, South Africa and the United States

Around 22,300 migrants from central and Eastern Europe joined the Welsh labour market between May 2004 and March 2008. Over half of all migrant workers from central and Eastern Europe are living in Carmarthenshire, Cardiff, Newport and Wrexham

In some areas including Carmarthenshire, Newport and Wrexham, an increase in migrant workers has meant that services have faced increased pressure, either through additional demand or through necessary changes to the means of service delivery.

Migrant workers refer to problems in relation to unscrupulous employers; lack of English and Welsh language skills and in some cases ill adjusted services. These issues can cause isolation and have a direct impact upon a migrant worker’s ability to fulfil their potential and integrate into Welsh society.

A number of studies have identified reports of illegal practices in the employment of migrant workers in Wales

A recent Department of Work & Pensions (UK) report states that only 2.6% of those claiming benefits in UK are EU migrants.

Policy Context

Although powers relating to labour migration are not devolved, the Welsh Government has responsibility to economic migrants living in Wales under its housing, health, education, social service functions and through its community cohesion agenda. As a result the Welsh Government has a key role to play in ensuring that economic migrants to become part of Welsh society.

Policies towards economic migrants coming to Wales in order to work are developed in the context of the Welsh Government’s strategic agenda, specifically the Programme for Government (2011), and within the framework of UK, European and international legislation. The Programme for Government sets out specific actions the Welsh Government is taking to ‘create a fair society free from discrimination, harassment and victimisation with cohesive and inclusive communities’ (Welsh Government 2011).



EU citizens have the same right as UK citizens to apply to the local municipality for assistance under homelessness legislation.

However, eligibility for housing benefit to pay for that accommodation (for people who are not working) depends on how long a person has resided in the UK and their economic activity status.

In most cases the local council (municipality) are obliged to provide advice and help at an early stage.

They may have to help EU citizens find a home, or in some situations, keep their current home. In other cases, the council may have a duty to make sure they are provided with a home.

You don’t have to be living on the street to be homeless. You may be sleeping on a friend’s sofa, staying in a hostel, or living in overcrowded or unsuitable accommodation.

To be defined as ‘statutorily homeless’ and thus eligible for accomodation under UK homelessness legislation, a person/family need prove they meet 4 criteria;
- Eligible for public funds (if required)
- Homeless (not intentionally)
- In priority need
- Have a genuine connection to the local area.

Priority need in Wales is defined as follows:
- A pregnant woman
- A family with dependent children
- Someone vulnerable as a result of old age, mental illness or physical disability or other special reason
- Someone homeless or threatened with homelessness as a result of an emergency such as flood, fire or other disaster
- A care leaver or person at particular risk of sexual or financial exploitation, 18 years or over but under the age of 21
- A 16 or 17 year old
- A person fleeing domestic violence or threatened domestic violence
- A person homeless after leaving the armed forces
- A former prisoner homeless after being released from custody


Employment related benefits.
EU Nationals are eligible for employment related benefits provided they have been resident in the UK for 3 months and are actively seeking employment.

Welfare benefits
EU Nationals are only eligible for welfare benefits when they have been resident and economically active (inc. self-supporting) for 5 years.

Housing Benefit
EU Nationals are eligible for housing benefit (if on a low wage or in receipt of employment related benefits) provided they have been resident in the UK for 3 months.


All EEA/EU nationals are also entitled to healthcare through the National Health Service (NHS).

However, they may have to pay for some treatments if they don’t normally live in the UK.

In most cases other than emergencies, a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or passport or ID card must be shown.

Support Options for homeless migrants

There are currently no agencies working specifically with homeless EU migrants in Wales. However, existing housing and homelessness support agencies (listed below) in Cardiff, Newport, Wrexham and Carmarthen report an increase in EU migrants accessing their services over the last eighteen months.

The Huggard Centre
The BIG Issue Cymru
The Wallich
Cardiff YMCA
Shelter Cymru
Swansea Night Shelter
Wrexham Night Shelter

Cross border arrangements

There are currently no cross border arrangements in place between Wales and any other EU member state.

Case Studies
Country of origin: Slovakia

Country of residence: Wales (UK)

Adam came to the UK to find work as a painter and decorator. He did this very successfully, finally settling in Cardiff where he lived in private rented accommodation for 5 years.

Adam entered a relationship with a woman who subsequently moved in with him. Sadly, Adam had an underlying alcohol misuse issue, which caused damage to his pancreas. He became ill, but as he was also experiencing stress due relationship problems he failed to inform his employer. He lost his job, his relationship broke down and he lost his accommodation.

He started drinking heavily and became street homeless.

He presented as homeless to the municipality – who found him to be in priority need, as a result of his ill health. He was offered temporary accommodation at an NGO hostel. There, the staff worked with him over a period of more than 2 years to stabilise his health, tackle his alcohol issues, refer him to appropriate agencies for language and employment support and help him gain the confidence to go back into employment.

He was then offered permanent housing at Taff Housing, where he has now settled and is back in full time employment.
Country of origin: Czech Republic

Country of residence: Wales (UK)

Jakob came to the UK in 2004. He had a series of casual, low paid jobs, and lived in shared accommodation. When he met his partner, they moved into a privately rented apartment. In 2011, they had a baby. His partner gave up work and they were unable to afford the rent on the apartment. Eventually they were evicted. They presented as homeless to the Municipality – who found them to be in priority need, as they had a dependent child. After a period in temporary accommodation, they were rehoused in a Taff Housing property. Then, two years ago, Jakob’s partner left him. He was left to look after their small child on his own.

At this point, his housing situation became very vulnerable again. In order to look after his child, Jakob had to apply for a particular welfare benefit – Employment Support Allowance. This benefit requires ‘Habitual Residence’ – a record of uninterrupted employment and residence in UK. As Jakob had visited his parents in Czech Republic and had ceased working to care for his child, he failed the HR test. This meant he was also not eligible for Housing Benefit – the welfare benefit that pays for rent.

Fortunately, Jakob was in receipt of support from Taff’s Floating Support Service, who worked with him to negotiate with the Habitual Residence section of the Benefits Agency. They also worked with Taff Housing’s Rents team to ensure eviction proceedings did not take place. After a period of over three months with no benefits or income, the HR team decided to allow him HR status. His welfare benefits were approved allowing him to care full time for his son until he reaches school age.


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